Thanks to its composition, the egg is a very complete food from a nutritional point of view. When we are hungry but we don’t have much time to cook, the egg is an excellent solution: it is very quick to cook and it satisfies the appetite. In addition, if you have your own lunch at work you can always bring a boiled egg.
Have you ever wondered why boiled eggs are so solid?
The egg is a food rich in proteins, and they are different if you pick yolk or white. The yolk contains about 16% protein while the white contains 10% protein. It is exactly the proteins and how they coagulate as the temperature increases that allow us to prepare a boiled egg. By increasing the temperature, proteins denature and lose their tridimensional structure assuming a more linear conformation. Proteins in their denatured condition have the possibility to interact with each other in order to form a network which is able to trap the water inside, causing coagulation. This is why a boiled egg appears solid and very consistent.
Can we create a vegan boiled egg? Who would use it?
The request for animal products alternatives is increasing because of ethical and sustainability reasons. This is why many people are changing their food habits by approaching vegan and vegetarian diets. For this reason the industry is trying to give plant-based alternatives.
A vegetable boiled egg can be a valid alternative for vegan people who do not want to assume animal products without giving up the nutritional and practical benefits of a real egg. Not only vegans, but also people suffering from egg intolerance or cholesterol diseases can be interested in a egg substitute.
But what ingredients can be used to create a vegan boiled egg? Without doubt, vegetable proteins flours are valid ingredients you can start from. Not only they can provide a compensation for protein intake, but they can also be used to simulate the appearance and the texture of a boiled egg. This is possible because proteins have some functional properties that can be useful to influence structure, texture and flavour of food products.
Properties required and proteins needed to formulate a boiled egg
To simulate a boiled egg in terms of appearance and texture we can use specific functional properties of vegetal proteins. For example, the ability to create gel could be an interesting property to reproduce the consistency. Like egg proteins, also some vegetable proteins have the ability to form a network to trap the water after their denaturation by the heat. This property can be useful to reproduce the gelatinous consistency of the white but also to give structure to the yolk.
Gelling ability could be also useful because it allows to include the yolk phase in the white phase when the gel is still forming and finally keep the two phases together once it is completely gelatinized.
What about taste?
In animal egg the yolk is the most delicious part because it contains fats that are not present in the white, so this contributes to give good flavour to food preparations. In order to emulate this feature, vegetal proteins with high fat absorption capacity can be taken in consideration to improve mouthfeel and the retention of flavour. Textured legumes have a good ability to absorb oil and they are more performing than flours. In addition, they enhance the product structure so they could be ideal to create yolks.
Last but not least, proteins can have different colours that would help to reproduce those of the egg, therefore limiting the use of added food coloring. Think about soy or beans protein isolate, they could be valid to simulate albumen thanks to their white colour, while lupine proteins could be a good ingredients in order to reproduce yolk.
In conclusion, plant-based proteins can help us to formulate new products in order to satisfy the new needs of consumers.
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